UNCLE BEN



I am Emmanuel; I recently graduated from the community secondary school. It was close to my house, in the village where we lived. At the moment, there was no money for me to further my education in the university, so I stayed at home, helping out in the little ways I could. My father was a farmer and a member of the village governing council. On week days, he would wake up early in the morning and wash his face; he would have breakfast which was usually a leftoverfood from the previous day. Then he would leave with his hoe and cutlass to the farm. On weekends, he would go for important meetings at the Igwe’s palace.

 

Sometimes, towards the month ending, he would make so much money from his farm produce that he would even give us some, to buy ourselves new clothes. Other times he would make very little income from selling the farm produce that he looked so sullen and wouldn’t even respond to our greetingsin the morning whenever we greeted him.

Mum was a mid wife, who worked in the government clinic which was close to our house.

I and Mary were the only kids of our parents. She was three years younger than I was. 

 

I was at home one afternoon when my friends knocked on the door. Mary my younger sister had left for school about an hour ago.

“Open the door, you big fish” I recognized the voice; it was that of Ike, my classmate when I was still in secondary school.

“Your life is very boring o!” Jude, who stood behind him voiced out, as I opened the door for them. 

“Leave it for me o” I replied and we all burst out laughing. 

“Let’s go to the river and swim” Ike suggested. Very soon, we were on our way to the river to swim. Soon, another of our friend Mathew joined us; he walked behind us with a girl called Jessica. His hands wrapped round her waist. They both laughed and made so much noise that I had to turn and stare at them with jealousy. 

“Let the single breath, for Christ’s sake!!” Jude blurted out to the couple; he was also feeling intimidated.

“Don’t mind those lovers” Ike said to us, trying to make us feel better. 

 

Soon we changed the topic of discussion.

“City life is better than Village life” Ike said

“Shut your mouth Baba, it’s not true” Jude interrupted and then they began arguing. 

Then the girl who walked with Mathew voiced out; 

“Nobody wants to remain in this village forever o!” She said. We all kept quiet as she continued.

“Well, currently I’m looking for a way to escape and go to the city so that I can enjoy life” 

“So you’ll leave me?” Mathew asked her; his hands still wrapped round his waist.

“Yes of course, If you like, don’t find a way to go to the city too” she said and we started laughing at Mathew who felt ashamed.

 

After that moment, I was lost in thoughts; I began wondering how I could find my way to the city. The way the girl had pictured the city, made it look like paradise. Well, I knew my dad would never allow me leave his house for the city. I was almost giving up on ever setting my foot in the city, when I remembered Uncle Ben; He was the younger brother to my father and lived in the city.

“Emmanuel!” Ike said, pushing me back to consciousness.

“What have you been thinking on?” I wasn’t even aware that we had gotten to the River..

—————————————————————————

That night, I became worried on how I would reach UncleBen. He lived in the city though he had only visited us once,when I was younger. 

 

Once, I’d overheard dad discussing with mum on how surprised they were, that he had acquired so much wealth in a short time. It convinced me the more that my dad wouldn’t support the idea of my going to the city to stay with him. Worse still, I had no phone of mine. I thought on what to do, and finally came up with an idea. At night, I quietly went to the place where mum usually dropped her button phone. I checked through her contacts; hoping and praying that his contact was part of them. Yes! I jubilated when I saw it;boldly saved with UNCLE BEN. I sent him a text message and hoped that he would reply as soon as possible.

 

“Dear Uncle Ben, it’s Emmanuel writing to you; I recently graduated from the secondary school and I’m idle at home. I would love to spend my holidays with you. Please call me when you see this message.”

 

I was about leaving for my room when the phone began to vibrate; it was Uncle Ben calling. I was so lucky that the phone was on silent mode.

I sneaked outside the house to pick the call.

“Emma! Emma!” He screamed my name over the phone, laughing. It had been so long since he came around. 

“Good evening Uncle Ben” I said shyly over the phone. 

“So you’re done with secondary school?” He asked, sounding surprised.

“You’re now a big boy o, don’t worry I’ll convince your dad to let you come and stay with me in the city” he said. Soon he ended the call.

 

I leapt for joy, I can’t remember if I slept well that night; I kept tossing from one side of the mat to the other till the cock crowed in the morning. 

 

By evening, Uncle Ben called my dad; raising my excitement the more.

I stood behind the wooden door, listening as dad spoke. 

“Ben, I don’t want my son to live permanently in the city, he’s too young to live in such a dangerous place” dad said. I was surprised; was Uncle Ben suggesting that I’d stay with him permanently? My heart felt like sinking; I knew dad to be a tough man. Silence enveloped the room; I guess Uncle Ben was speaking on the other side of the phone, while dad listened to him. The silence seemed to be prolonged and then dad finally said.

“Well, if you really promise that you’ll take care of him, no problem then” dad said.

 

As soon as he said this, I jumped up happily; my head hitting the thatched roof of our stout muddy house;

“Who is that?!” Dad asked, but I slipped away.

————————————————————————-

“Your uncle who lives in the city called me last night” Dad said to me; we were all sitting in the living room that morning; mum sat on a wooden chair beside him, while Mary sat on another, close to me, rubbing her eyes. I nodded my head trying to feign ignorance. “Okay sir, how’s he doing?” I asked.

“He’s fine. He wants you to come over and stay with him; he told me he will sponsor your university education later on and help you find a job after that” dad said. Well, I was surprised that Uncle Ben didn’t just want me to come and stay with him for some time, but to stay with him permanently.

 

“City boy!” Mum said to me as she smiled; she was always happy whenever good things happened. I smiled back and turned to look at Mary.

 

Mary my younger sister didn’t seem happy for me; it was in her nature not to be excited about anything new. She looked at me and yawned, and then she turned her face away and kept rubbing her sleepy eyes. After prayers, she stood up and went inside to prepare for school. I kept wallowing in excitement till I finally arrived the city.

—————————————————————————-

That afternoon, he drove to the park to pick me up. The moment I saw his car; a sparkling black car which I’d never seen before, I marveled and kept staring at him in surprise. 

He was of an average height, he had beards and always smiled a lot; a light skinned young man.

“Mom Amie!” He said to me as he stepped out of the car. I smiled as I launched forward to probably hug or shake him. 

“You’re welcome Uncle Ben said, patting me on my head”. He helped me put my big box in the booth of the car and then we drove off. 

 

I tried to engage him in a discussion;

“Uncle Ben please what do you do for a living” he was silent for a while then he started smiling.

“You’ll see when we get home” he replied, and then he pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his breast pockets. 

“Do you smoke?” He asked, looking at me for some seconds, grinning. 

“Ha, No oo” I said in a funny way which made him laugh. He ignited the stick of cigarette with his right hand; the other hand on the steering wheel. Soon we were home.

 

His house was another object of wonder which kept ringing in my mind every day, even up till the day I finally ended up in prison.

The building; a duplex, stood tall and strong, coated with a white and yellow color. 

The gateman closed the gate behind us and quickly walked down to where Uncle Ben had parked the car. 

 

Oga I Wellucome you” he managed to say; battling seriously with the word; WELCOME. From his accent, I concluded that he was either an Hausa or Yoruba man.

“Thank you” Uncle Ben replied, smiling. I wondered why he always smiled.

Soon, Uncle Ben led me inside the house, the Security man carried my big box and walked behind us; 

“You’ll stay here” Uncle Ben said smiling and pointing towards and empty room; a bed lying in the center.

“Thank you so much Uncle Ben”.

At that moment, I needed to pass some urine; I felt bad because there were no bushes around for me to urinate, just like we did back in the village. 

“Uncle please where is the closest bush?” I asked, trying to sound responsible and eloquent.

“What do you want to do in a bush?” He asked widening his eyes; 

“I want to peace” I replied.

“Peace? What do you mean by peace? 

“I want to wee-wee” I said; trying to rephrase the word. 

He laughed and laughed. For some minutes I looked like a fool.

“Village boy” he teased.

“The correct way is…I-AM-PRESSED or I-WANT-TO-EASE-MYSELF” he said and continued.

“Please do away with those village words which you normally use” he said.

I nodded and then he showed me the restroom and explained how to use everything inside it.

After dinner, we sat in the sitting room, watching a football match; it was my first time seeing a television, I marveled at how humans could be reduced to such a small size. 

 

Soon, three hefty men bundled in three girls. Each one of them had their mouths sealed with a scarf. 

“Take them to the room” Uncle Ben said.

I watched in terror as the girls, who were so frightened, were bundled into a room close to mine. 

I turned and looked at uncle for an explanation but he kept his eyes glued to the television; smiling the more. 

“I’ve sent you two-Hundred thousand naira for the girls” he said to the three men who had assembled before him some minutes later. They all thanked him with a happy countenance and left, few minutes later.

After they left, Uncle Ben picked up his phone and called someone.

“Yes baba, I’ll sell them to your manager for three million Naira” he said.

After some minutes of silence he spoke again. 

“The last price is 2.5million Naira” he said and switched off the phone angrily.

Some seconds later, the phone rang and he picked it up;

“Now you’re talking!” He said smiling. He cut the call and stood up to dance. 

“We’re going to ball this week” he said to me as he danced happily.

“Do you mean play ball?” 

“Ah! Common! Don’t be Na├»ve, we’re going to waste money this week” he said. I nodded, still trying to understand what he meant by wasting money.

“What about the girls inside the other room?” I asked.

“They’re my business partners” 

“But why were they tied that way?” I asked further.

“Young boy, chill. You’re moving faster than your shadow” he said. 

I became scared; the first thought that popped up in my mind was that he wanted to use them for ritual. I hushed it aside; his smiles convinced me that he wasn’t capable of such. 

 

That night, while everywhere was dark and silent, I lay on my bed, about drifting to sleep when I heard some voices.

I came out from the room and moved in the direction of the voices. It was that of the girls who had been tied and brought to the house earlier that night. One of them seemed to be panting and crying bitterly. I went back to my room and searched for my little torchlight which I had brought from the village. I came back and stood in front of the room where the girls were locked. I pushed the door wide open. 

 

I saw Uncle Ben; he was Naked and was mounted on one of the naked girls at one corner of the room; she seemed to be sobbing bitterly. For some seconds I tried to understand what was happening, but he immediately instructed me to close the door and go to my room.

It was my first time ever seeing such. I was yet to understand what my uncle was doing for a living.

 

The next morning when I awoke, I greeted him, but he didn’t reply me. He seemed not to be happy.

“Always stay in your room once its bedtime, is that clear?” He asked.

“Yes sir” I replied.

“Anyways, your parents called some minutes ago, they said I should greet you” he said to me.

“Thank you sir.”

 

Some minutes later, a white van drove into the compound and two men came out of it. They walked into the room and brought out the girls who were still tied with ropes; the girls looked tired and scattered. I knew Uncle Ben had satisfied himself with the three of them. One of the girls seemed to be crying bitterly and then the man, who held her, slapped her heavily on her left cheek. I gasped in shock and terror from the window where I watched.

 

“You’ve not sent the money” Uncle Ben said to one of them. 

“Our Oga will send it right away sir” the taller man said. Soon Uncle Ben saw an alert on his phone; I suspected that the money must have entered with the way he smiled. Soon the men drove off with the girls and he walked into the house. Before he reached the doorstep, I ran to my room. 

 

Even though uncle Ben took good care of me and promised that I’ll start schooling in some months times; Even though he took me out and bought me things; Even though he gave me some money on weekly basis, I still felt so uncomfortable with what I was always seeing daily, in the house.

Every day, different young people would be brought to his house and locked up in the room close to mine. It was mostly girls. The ones who seemed so beautiful to him; he would rape them; the ones who were stubborn, he would use them as punching bags. Then the next day he would sell them to the three men whose faces I was now familiar with. They would come and carry the girls away with the white van. 

 

Yes, Uncle Ben was really taking care of me and it was already telling on my body. I was adding in Weight and size daily, but I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to do. 

 

Once, mum had spoken with me over the phone and asked me what he did for a living; I was mute for some seconds and thought on what to say. “He sells goods and services” I’d lied. 

 

Well, I’ll blame myself for not doing anything about the situation; little did I know that his cup was almost filled up. After three months of my arrival, the police invaded Uncle Ben’s house. That night I was asleep and Uncle Ben was busy in the room having his rounds of pleasure with one of the unfortunate girls. A loud thud on the door of the sitting room brought me into consciousness. I rushed out to see what was happening but I was stopped when a gun was pointed to my forehead;

“Don’t move” one of the police officers said, and another handcuffed me. It was dark; the torch lights which they heldpartially illuminated the sitting room.

 

One of them searched for the Switch and put the lights on. Immediately, the sitting room was illuminated. I counted them all; they were thirty armed officers in the sitting room.

I watched in fear as they pushed Uncle Ben out of the room; he was handcuffed and had only a pair of his boxers on. His manhood stood erect, and seemed to fall slowly to normal when he realized that he was no more in a world of fantasy but of reality.

Some other officers brought out four girls from the room, who were tied with thick ropes. They seemed to be half naked and wept bitterly.

 

I blamed myself for not leaving the house early enough. I blamed myself for keeping quiet for three months. There was nothing I could explain to the officers to make them believe that I was innocent or not part of such crime. I was an accomplice.

Worse still, I was already of age to be put behind bars.

I shook my head in regret; I would have just remained in the village; having fun with my friends.

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